No, Electric Cars Don’t Generate More Overall Pollution Than Gas Cars

A new study shows that the average electric vehicle in the U.S. is as clean as an internal-combustion car getting 73 mpg.

byEric Brandt|
No, Electric Cars Don’t Generate More Overall Pollution Than Gas Cars

A new study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that sounds like they’d be super fun at parties, shows that electric vehicles more than break even on their “carbon debt,” despite popular arguments to the contrary

There are a few old lines about electric cars that the study attempts to address. Some say EVs are just as bad for the environment as their gas-powered counterparts because the electricity they run on is often provided by a coal-fired power plant, while others point to the intensive manufacturing process behind the batteries and all that fancy tech.

But thanks to advancements in technology and lower prices of clean renewable energy, the average EV in the US is as clean as a non-electric car that gets 73 mpg on gasoline. More electric vehicles are running on renewable energy, meaning reduced emissions overall. The study split the US into 26 regions, and 19 of those regions saw electric car emissions equal to or better than a 51 mpg car in 2014.

“For over 70 percent of Americans, driving an EV results in fewer emissions than even a 50 MPG gasoline vehicle.” says the UCS.

Union of Concerned Scientists

The region that scored the worst was Colorado and parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota, where an EV is only as efficient as a 38 mpg car. That's the only region other than O'ahu in Hawaii where the number is lower than 40. The big winner is New York state where an electric car is as clean as a car that gets 160 mpg.

As for the argument that manufacturing electric vehicles produces more emissions than the process for regular cars—the UCS admits that’s partially true, but they also point out that the 15 percent extra emissions “debt” pays for itself after 6-13 months in driving with no gas, using the Nissan Leaf as an example.

So, next time someone gives you heat for your electric car being powered by coal instead of gas, enlighten them with this study, which is sure to change their mind and make them want to buy a Chevy Bolt that day. Probably.